tposzytek

Nintex Workflow Migration from on premise to Office 365

Blog Post created by tposzytek Champion on Apr 14, 2017

Recently I've been involved in that project, where data and information that was being created for years in on premise SharePoints had to be migrated to the sharepoint online environment in office 365. All migration was said to be a simple, straightforward and easy due to the usage of sharegate, but... the real truth turned out to be way more dark.

 

Before the real migration started I sat down and started reading about the process and possible obstacles. I can now divide them into 3 groups:

  1. Limitations of Sharegate
  2. Limitations of SharePoint Online
  3. Limitations of Nintex for Office 365.

 

First things first. I will guide you through all and each from them.

 

Limitations of Sharegate

Sharegate is a really great tool. Honestly. It saved me dozens of hours but as well made me frustrated. But still it is great. It really allows not straightforward migrations to be possible (like from SP2007 directly to SP2013 and so on), is the only tool that allows automatic migration from on premise to online, allows migration of sites, users, managed metadata and many, many more.

Currently Sharegate supports migration of 30 actions that are present in on premise (source: Nintex FAQ – Sharegate):

 

Action Name OnPremisesMapped Action in Office 365
Assign Flexi taskStart a Task Process
Calculate dateAdd Time to Date
Change stateChange State
Check in itemCheck In Item
Check out itemCheck Out Item
Convert ValueConvert Value
Create itemCreate List Item
Delete itemDelete Item WM Action
Discard check outDiscard Check Out Item
End workflowTerminate Current Workflow
FilterFilter
Log in history listLog to History List
LoopLoop with Condition
Math operationDo Calculation
Pause for...Pause For Duration
Pause until...Pause Until
Query ListQuery List
Regular expressionRegular Expression
Run ifRun If
Run parallel actionsParallel Block
Send notificationSend an email
Set a conditionConditional Branch
Set field valueSet field in current item
Set variableSet Workflow Variable
Set workflow statusSet Workflow Status
State machineState Machine
SwitchSwitch
Twitter TweetTwitter Tweet
Update itemUpdate List Item
Yammer MessageYammer Message 

 

To use Sharegate you have to really review each from your workflows and re-build it, so that you can expect that it will be migrated. Note, that:

  1. there are some crucial actions, that are totally unsupported but can be "workarouned".
  2. there are actions that just cannot be migrated and must be re-created after the migration.

 

What to do with them? I recommend the following approach:

 

BEFORE MIGRATION

  1. user defined actions - During migration they will be replaced with a blank placeholder leaving you with nothing. All actions from inside will be lost. I recommend converting them into a "Run If" action block (which is "migrate-able") and putting all actions from UDA inside it. Then if I needed to reuse those actions replacing UDAs. Oh, and the rule to execute it was always set to "true".
  2. query list must have a defined number of rows to be returned. Field cannot be left empty. Oh, and by default querying list is always "recursive" in O365
  3. action set is not supported as UDA. See point no. 1 how to resolve.
  4. for each loop actions are as well not supported as UDA and Action Sets. See point no. 1 how to resolve;
  5. workflow constants are not supported in Nintex for O365, thus Sharegate cannot migrate them. You should either remove them, turn them into workflow variables or create a SP List to keep them (so if you are using them in many workflows) and then just query the list.
  6. workflow context variables - some are not supported in Nintex for O365, thus Sharegate cannot migrate them (like the one with Approval Comments). You should either replace them with a workflow variable, or remove because may cause troubles during migration;
  7. inline functions - are not supported in Nintex for O365, thus Sharegate cannot migrate them. You should either replace them with a workflow variable, or remove because may cause troubles during migration;
  8. commit pending changes - this action is not present in O365 as the architecture is different. Actions are not grouped and executed with batches. Everything goes synchronously. All such actions should be deleted before.

 

AFTER MIGRATION

On premise actionOffice 365 action counterpartRemarks
Query/ Update XMLQuery/ Update XML

Actions are not supported because of the architecture differences. Sharegate will migrate them as a blank placeholders.

User Profile actionsOffice 365 User Profile actionsSharegate will migrate them as a blank placeholders.
flexi taskStart a task process/ Assign a task (based on how many approvers you have)No "To Do" task either. You cannot set mail priority, you cannot chose to which from "assigned" user the notification will be sent, you cannot delegate (workaround: https://community.nintex.com/community/build-your-own/blog/2015/02/26/delegation-in-o365aA), you cannot calculate time to send reminder. Oh, and you cannot attach files to the notification message. Some workarounds are possible after the migration, some are not available at all.
search queryOffice 365 Search QuerySharegate will migrate it as a blank placeholder.
dynamics crm"Dynamics CRM" actionsSharegate will migrate it as a blank placeholder.
convert document action"Document Generation"Sharegate will migrate it as a blank placeholder.
set item permissions Office 365 update item permissionsSharegate will migrate it as a blank placeholder.
Update documentNo direct counterpartSharegate will migrate it as a blank placeholder.
Create item in another siteOffice 365 Create List Item or Document SetSharegate will migrate it as a blank placeholder.
Update/ Delete multiple itemsPossibly by some HTTP Request callSharegate will migrate it as a blank placeholder.
Build stringBuild stringAction is not supported for migration because of the architecture differences. Sharegate will migrate them as a blank placeholders.
Collection operationBy a proper Collection operationActions differs. There is a dedicated "Collection operation" per each operation, not one for all as in on premise. Sharegate will migrate them as a blank placeholders.
Store/ Retrieve dataNo direct counterpartThere is no possibility for the workflows in O365 to "talk" with each other. Consider change of the workflow design.
Start workflowStart workflowAction is not supported for migration because of the architecture differences. Sharegate will migrate them as a blank placeholders.
Create site collectionBy a proper Office 365 create site collection
Delete site By a proper Office 365 delete site 
Delegate workflow taskBy Assign a task and custom workFor example: https://community.nintex.com/community/build-your-own/blog/2015/02/26/delegation-in-o365 
Request approvalOffice 365 set approval status Action is not supported for migration because of the architecture differences. Sharegate will migrate them as a blank placeholders.
And many, many more... Read the attachment

 

Complete list of "non-migratable" actions is listed here: Nintex FAQ – Sharegate.

 

Limitations of SharePoint Online

One and the most irritating limitations are the thresholds (Software boundaries and limits for SharePoint 2013). And in Online you CANNOT CHANGE THEM  Be aware of them and don't get angry when migrating:

  1. Workflow file cannot exceed 5MB - (source: https://community.nintex.com/message/57706-re-what-is-the-default-limitation-in-nintex-for-exporting-a-workflow?commentI…) that simply means, it shouldn't have more than 100 actions inside.
    HOWEVER I had a "pleasure" to migrate workflows having like 5 actions without a success and so far I have no idea why Sharegate was reporting errors when migrating.
  2. Infopath file cannot be larger than 5MB (be aware if you have forms with attachments).
  3. List/ library cannot hold more than 5.000 items. If you do exceed it during the migration, be prepared to observe abnormal behavior of your tenant.

 

Limitations of Nintex for Office 365

Those limits have already been described during in the "Sharegate limitations" - those limits are most often caused by the differences in the SharePoint Online hosted environment limitations, thus some actions were just impossible to be re-created and had to be done from a scratch, some has different architecture and cannot be directly migrated. And still, there is a huge lack of functionality in Nintex for Office 365:

 

  1. There is no conditional startfor workflows, however it can be replaced with filter action
  2. There are no site scheduled workflows, but you can workaround it by either using 3rd party: Plumsail Workflow Scheduler or simply work them around: Scheduled Workflows in Office 365;
  3. When comparing you are more than often not able to verify if a value "is empty". You can only compare whether it equals or not (but you cannot set equation to nothing );
  4. No "workflow constants".
  5. No "inline functions".
  6. No "UDA" actions.
  7. No action sets.
  8. No support for custom actions.

 

Summary

I just felt that this post cannot end up like this. So there is a hope for all of that. Both Sharegate and Nintex are working to develop their products - Sharegate to support migration for new actions (I heard UDAs and Action Sets are on their roadmap), what is Nintex working on you can find here: 3 - Nintex Workflow for Office 365: Hot (300 ideas) – Customer Feedback for Nintex.

 

I wish you all all best in your migration projects

If you have any questions or stories you'd like to share feel free to leave them in comments. I'm sure there are more issues I am not aware of yet  

 

Regards,

Tomasz

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